Pieces of Grief
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Listener warning: Please note that these pieces can be emotionally intense at times, and there are mentions of death, loss, and suicide. Listener discretion is advised.
Pieces of Grief is a seven-segment audio project by Felix Obelix (aka Wendy Spitzer) that premiered on October 13, 2020. As a sonic meditation on grief and loss, it integrates field recordings, anonymous voicemails, archival interviews, and original music. It is intended to be listened to in quiet contemplation while walking the trails of Durant Nature Preserve in Raleigh, North Carolina or any quiet, natural area. The project is supported by the City of Raleigh, Office of Raleigh Arts SEEK public art program.
You may choose to listen to the piece in its entirety or to individual pieces that may resonate:
“Anything I can think of would go on that list.”
Kübler-Ross’s five emotions of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—aren’t enough: an exploration of the larger palette of emotions associated with loss.
“My grief process was not a linear process.”
The timing of grief, the waves coming at you and receding,
the ending (or non-ending?) of grief: grief over time.
III. Loss in a Pandemic
“All I can say is, this is a very hard time.”
Grief during the flu pandemic of 1918 vs. that in the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020:
isolation, distance, making a living, the losses of the little things.
IV. People That You Lose That Are Still There (Mental Illness)
“You can’t grieve out loud because the person’s still there.”
A conversation between strangers on the unique experience of
losing a person to mental illness: grieving for someone still alive but profoundly changed.
V. Other People
“People, they want to help. They just don’t know what to do.”
People around a grieving person blundering, not blundering, doing good, and doing bad: what to do and what not to do for a grieving person.
“A lot of patience to navigate.”
Nature, music, exercise, writing it down, talking it out, meditating,
keeping the person alive in your memory: advice offered from people
farther along in their grief process to people newly experiencing grief.
VII. The Big Picture
“Grief is the emotional price we pay.”
Grief as big change, loss as a mirror for mortality itself,
and the biggest picture, the biggest point of it all?
Conceived, researched, recorded, and produced by Felix Obelix.
All music composed, performed, and recorded by Felix Obelix.
All field recordings were made at the Durant Nature Preserve by Felix Obelix.
Final audio mixed by Barnabas Poffley.
All spoken words are from anonymous callers to the special voicemail hotline set up for this project and from archival interviews.
The following route through Durant Nature Preserve lines up almost exactly with the length of the entire piece if you walk at a leisurely pace.
Consult this map:
Start at the south entrance to the park (3237 Spottswood Street, Raleigh, NC) and find the trailhead to the Border Trail.
Hit ‘play’ at the trailhead and take the Border Trail (red trail marker) until it intersects with the White House Rd trail (white trail marker).
Take a right to follow the White House Rd trail, then take a right to follow the Nature Trail (pink trail marker).
When the Nature Trail dead-ends, take a left onto the Lakeside Trail (blue trail marker). Follow the trail around the lake. At a leisurely pace, you should reach the end of the
“VII. The Big Picture” at the edge of lake, where the road back to the parking lot starts.
If you’ve walked faster than a leisurely pace, there is a bench at the edge of the lake
(near the southside entrance to the Lakeside Trail) where you can listen to the rest of the piece while looking out over the lake.
Loss and grief are always around and rarely talked about.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has plunged us, as a global and local society,
into profound, collective loss.
Through my own grief process, I became aware of three things:
1) the variety of emotions associated with grief and the unpredictability of their timeline;
2) the difficulty in speaking about those emotions with others; and yet
3) the need to hear from others about their experiences.
I also found that my only respites from grief were daily walks in nature, listening to music. Ultimately, I hope this project will be a source of interest (both as art pieces and as a means of self-care) that offers listeners a concrete, arts-based activity as a conduit for difficult emotions—and one that can be experienced while adhering to social distancing best practices.
Thank you to:
Haven Parrott and the staff of Transitions LifeCare in Raleigh
My sincerest thank you's go to the people who called the hotline I set up for this project and who shared their stories of loss with me. This piece could not have been made without your voices and your wisdom, and I cannot thank you enough. I strived to incorporate your responses with empathy and thoughtfulness, and I hope you enjoy the final product.
The studio equipment I used to make this project was made possible by an Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artists Grant from the Durham Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Any and all feedback is welcome; please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for listening.